May 14, 2013

Back To Basics: KM and Adult Education

OR, "I Am A KM Snob"

Ohhhhhhh, so many things going on this week...apartment hunting in DC (major pain in the ass), trying to figure out Rita Ora's ethnicity....I mean, she could be Albanian like it says on her Wiki page but she looks at least half Black AND she dated a Kardashian and, except for Kourtney, we know how they roll.

What else...I am officially over these "idealist peddlers" harassing folks on the streets of DC to listen to their spiel about whatever organization they're repping.  They could take a few cues from their homeless competitors, namely, say your piece and keep it moving!  'Cause, let me tell you, you are taking your LIFE into your hands steppin' in front me to block my path to the Metro at 6pm to ask me if you can ask me a question - you just did!

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Recently, I attended the Global KM Health Share Fair hosted by  the Global Health Knowledge Collaborative (GHKC).  Since the field of public health is new ground for me in my KM career, I hoped to get some insight into the ways in which KM is is being used in the space to help me be more creative.  Unfortunately, my takeaways weren't quite what I set out to acquire.

For starters, I made the realization that I am indeed a KM snob.  What is that you ask? In a nutshell, if I don't feel that a person adds to my understanding of KM then I'm not interested.  If I don't feel like a networking relationship will help me to grow as a professional or individual then I'm not interested. And, if I don't feel that someones understanding of KM is consistent or in line with mine, then I'm especially not interested.  This might seem ironic - possibly, even moronic, considering that my entire profession is about promoting communication and knowledge sharing, but honestly, that's just where I'm at these days.  Over the course of my nearly 10 year career I have certainly put in my time meditating on KM and sharing my insights on the subject with anyone remotely interested (and several folks who weren't) but too often those conversations seem painfully one-sided (and not just because we likes to talk, which we do). At this stage of my career I need professional relationships that are equally give and take, not ones where I'm giving solely to help them grow.  Yes, it's nice to give but sometimes we wanna be Johnny at Christmas instead of being Santa all the time - milk and cookies ain't the same thing as a Samsung Galaxy 4S, I'm just sayin'.

My second, unexpected realization, was that folks in this space don't seem to do as much sharing as you'd think or expect. There was whining about competition for donors/funding dollars and the need to differentiate themselves from their "competitors" in terms of publishing research and program activity and maybe I'm just being an unsympathetic jackass but it seemed that too many of these folks were operating in a spirit of fear - yeah, I'm getting spiritual - that flies in the face of the work that they are doing. At the end of the day, we are working to save lives and, in some cases, eliminate illnesses in poorer, underserved populations that don't exist within Western nations. There may be competition for the limited resources to achieve these goals but collaboration is free y'all!

Interesting side bar: Considering how fearful some of these organizations are about sharing knowledge and information, sharing fearlessly is a great way to give visibility to those organizations willing to try something different.

Anywho, while I sat there feeling like a fish out of water because everyone else has their history and experience within the space in which they (and now "'I") work to bond over and I'm being a "judgey" KM snob looking down on them for not knowing as much about KM as (I like to think) I do and not trying harder to know more about KM or to develop innovative ways to approach KM I started getting critical of everything: the layout of the room, anything anybody said, what the girl next to me was eating at breakfast (and how).

To be fair, I did make an effort to share my thoughts in small group work sessions but, honestly, no one seemed very interested in what I had to say.  And while I'm willing (in the space of time it takes to write this post) to consider that it's because what I said wasn't particularly interesting, it's common knowledge that everything I have to say is, at a minimum, interesting, so I don't think that was the case.  I think it's because the reflections and contributions of other people, doing exactly the type of work that they do, frustrated by exactly the same challenges they are confronting, and saying exactly the same things they believe (not to mention all of those people who don't like to be aggressive about the truth preferring to sugar coat every bitter pill until they rob it of it's effectiveness), were more compelling than some dude who was, essentially, asking them to reflect upon how their attitudes and perspectives (read: bias) influence how they do their work and the results they see.

Yeah, real-talk, I was that deep.

But I couldn't help it!  Listening to some of the comments just had me on an Adult Ed rager.  I know that I'm probably the only (or one of a few) KM professional who went the route of an Adult Ed course of study, but I truly believe that getting anywhere from the intersection of KM Avenue and Public Health Street demands an understanding of these Adult Ed principles courtesy of Malcolm Knowles (with a little help from the Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative (QOTFC):
  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
    • Develop rapport with your audience and encourage a Socratic method of learning to encourage critical thinking and elicit participation
    • Show interest in peoples thoughts, opinions, and feedback
    • Provide regular constructive and specific feedback (both positive and negative)
    • Encourage use of the range of KM tools and resources available within your organization
    • Encourage individual KM activity that reflects folks' needs and helps them to achieve their own goals and objectives 
    • Acknowledge folks preferred learning style of each member of your audience/team/staff
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
    • Understand the needs and skills of your audience before attempting to secure their buy-in or commitment to something
    • Facilitate reflective learning opportunities
  • Adults are goal oriented
    • Provide meaningful learning experiences that are clearly linked to your audiences goals
    • Provide relate-able, real-life examples 
    • Ask questions that motivate reflection, inquiry and further research.
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
    • Provide some choice in KM activities and tools so that participation - and learning - reflect the interests and habits of your audience
  • Adults are practical
    • When making choices about assessments, interventions, and availability of resources and tools, take the time to clearly explain and discuss your rationale
    • Be open, honest, and explicit about the impact and usefulness of tasks and activities in which folks are engaged
  • Adult learners like to be respected
    • Take an interest in your audience
    • Acknowledge the wealth of experiences that folks bring to the process
    • Regarding folks as colleagues equal (and maybe even superior) in life experience
    • Encourage the expression of ideas, reasoning and feedback 
    • Secure buy-in at every opportunity
Your organization may have this massive need (directive and/or mandate) to improve how knowledge and information resources are shared but folks' level of participation reflects their individual need, not your wants.  People may put documents in the knowledgebase because they have to (and manage it when told to do so) but active engagement happens when they see relevance to their own work.  If you're not getting this type of engagement stop bitchin' about folks not beating a path to the wonderful system you've gifted them with (clearly, in a vacuum) and start asking them what it will take to make that system and the processes you've established into a tool that meets their needs.

January 3, 2012

Adventure's in KM Consulting: Cassandra's Curse

OR, "Why I Need A Pimp"

Oh, sweet blog. How I have missed thee. Would that my time this past year been spent committing words of wisdom into your digital care rather than wasted on advising the unappreciative...otherwise known as my clients and prospects.

I'm not sure if anyone said that consulting is easy but if they did then I have a wad of spit ready for airmail. Despite my growing acceptance of my own brilliance with regards to KM (yes, I'm generous to a fault) it's time that I accept the unavoidable truth that I need a pimp.

And not just someone who will hunt down clients and trick me out on back to back KM gigs, but someone who will occassionally smack me around when I get all noble about KM and feel the need to argue with clients about affecting true change. I mean, if it's clear that they are challenging you because they want the lie, ahem, the version of the truth they're paying for who am I to point out elephants in the room and try to speak truth to power. A good pimp would remind me that they are paying for a fantasy and...SMACK...give it to 'em ho!

So does it make me a good consultant that I can carve up organizational challenges and deliver scintillating strategies for KM sucess or a trrbl consultant (no vowels equals "really, really bad") because I believe in what I do and hate to compromise my values...SMACK...uh, because I won't just play my damn role and feed the fantasy?

The Knowledge Manager in me says "you go boy!" but my bank account is calling for a smack down and screaming at me to "get with the script ho!"

I mean, so what if I'd foreseen the downfall of Circuit City back in '05 (take a note CompUSA, Best Buy, and Fry's - your customers can do all of their own research and get better prices online - your big differentiation needs to be providing a phenomenal, multi-sensory customer experience! Think Sega Video arcades in the '80's and Sharper Image/Brookstones in the '90s before they both got cheap and tacky - take it to the next level!) or if I could've advised Blockbuster and Borders that what did them in isn't the rise of the digital marketplace but their slack ass (read: non-existant) efforts to re-brand their businesses as interactive community hotspots where people come to get connected; digital is a format, not a way of life and retailers like these simply needed to change how they engaged their customers and delivered their products in order to remain viable and thrive. I mean, really Blockbuster, you let Redbox beat you out?!?! I can hear Gomer now, "shameful, shameful, shameful.")? Does it really matter how great I think I am if I can't get my customers and prospects on board with making the changes necessary to ensure success of their KM efforts?

I guess that answers my question: great at KM, trrbl at consulting.

Anywho, while I take a little time away from stressing to blog (aka bitch and moan) and re-consider Pharmacy school (because Pharmacist's don't have these issues...or any issues for that matter...I think...maybe...and I could work part-time in retirement without further stressing my poor broken heart) I can't help but think about my patron Greek prophetess, Cassandra.

Cassandra was a princess of Troy and sister of Paris - the dude who got his family caught up in that infamous war when he went HAM over another man's wife. According to mythology, Cassandra was a hottie in her own right and the Greek God Apollo had a thing for her. In his attempts to woo her he taught her the art of prophesy but she wasn't feelin' him and refused to give up the goodies. Sidebar: this chick must have been off the chain to turn down a god who skipped flowers, candy and Hallmark cards and was throwin' around gifts like "foretell the future" but I'm not hatin'! And you never know, he could've had halitosis from hell (or Tartarus). Anyway, since apparently there's a no return policy on the gift of prophesy, Apollo gave Cassandra a "screw you" parting gift which robbed her prophecy of the power to persuade. So, essentially, she could predict the future but nobody believed her.

I'm not quite sure when I first read about Cassandra just that it was a long time ago (and I'm kinda old so that means it was like, in the 90's or something) but I've always been partial to her because even in high school I was pretty good at reading people and situations, understanding patterns of behavior, predicting outcomes and strategizing (although I probably should have waited see Dangerous Liasions before engaging in an eerily similar scheme which was a complete disaster, but you live, you learn). Even though people didn't disbelieve what I had to say they usually disregarded my advice and more than once became angry with me when my "propecies" came to pass, as if I made it happen by speaking it into existence. Of course, they never stayed angry for long because within a day or two (you know how high school is) they were seeking out my advice again.

I've been learning over the last year that consulting is pretty much the same game, except a lot of people pay you to tell them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear and the ones who claim to want the good, the bad, and the ugly only seem interested in truly wanting your help after they've failed miserably to do the very thing you advised against (and backed themselves into a corner). I used to wonder why Cassandra didn't just throw up a big, fat "dueces" and hop on the first boat out of Troy but now I'm wondering if her loyalty to family and country was as strong as my passion for KM and to affecting true change (however hokey it might sound).

Aaaaaaand writing that, I see just how lame that sounds.

While it's true that I love what I do and enjoy seeing my strategies bear fruit, I guess I struggle with coming to come to terms with the fact that no matter how amazingly prophetic and insightful (I believe) my vision/advice is, how well clients heed my counsel and apply my proposed strategies is really up to them. Ultimately, you can only take responsibility for what you've been engaged to do - provide the best consulting experience possible, then move on to the next opportunity.

Hmph, maybe having that clarity will make my adventures in consulting more of a joy and less of a headache over the next year. Let's hope, because I can't afford a pimp AND a drug dealer right now.

Happy New Year everyone!!

January 25, 2011

Dr. Everything'll Be Alright's 12 Step KM Program

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life

Electric word life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell you, there's something else...the afterworld

A world of never ending happiness, you can always see the or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one, "Dr. Everything'll Be Alright", instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind, baby

Cause in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld, in this life, you're on your own!

And if the elevator tries to bring you down, go crazy - punch a higher floor!"
I’ve been in a funk the last week and not just because ReRe didn't play in the Aussie Open, Roddick and Isner are out, and V had to retire due to injuries most likely sustained putting on that hot ass mess of a tennis dress (really BabyGirl, really!?!?!).

Anywho, today the universe (via Comcast) conspired to make me feel better. First, season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered tonight starring my old college chum (and the first drag queen I ever crushed on) Mimi Imfurst and eternal hottie Vanessa Williams who must get sick of being told how stunning she is every day of her life. Not that I would be the one to ever get tired of lookin' at her or sayin' so. Second, Gossip Girl came back to me after a very cold winter break. Now, as long as the writers stop stabbing my eyes with this whole Blair/Lonely Boy (aka Dumbass Dan) mess I can ride out the remainder of the season blissfully. P.S. What’s up with the One-Life-To-Live-Gossip-Girl-Chicas-Exchange program? Not that I’m complaining; I totally get a kick out of it! Amanda Setton is a hoot, Melissa Gallo needs more work, and Tika Sumpter is truly unappreciated in Llanview.

Prior to all of this TV love, however, my general funkyness (that’s attitude, not B.O.) provided exactly the right creative fuel to pen the 12 Step KM piece to my KM Branding model.
Just to clarify, this isn't KM in 12 steps...if I had that nugget in my tool belt I probably wouldn't have spent the weekend feelin' funky and watching Jersey Shore hoping and praying I get a 'Gorilla Juice Head' t-shirt for my birthday.

No, 12 Step KM revolves around the idea of establishing a support and advocacy group targeting KM staff and champions with the intention of providing:
  • Professional education and development
  • Teambuilding and social support
  • Networking
  • Advocacy for KM and knowledge stewardship to strengthen KM as an organizational function
Initially, I thought about using this approach to target knowledge hoarders and poor sharers, but upon further thought it seemed a bit much for the workplace, especially when there are more direct ways to secure their participation in KM activity. In serving as a support mechanism for KM staff and champions this approach closes the loop on a 360°branding campaign that touches all stakeholders in an organization.

Unlike traditional 12 Step programs that address recovery from addiction, compulsion, or behavioral problems, this approach isn't meant to imply any shortcoming on the part of participants; think more Weight Watchers than AA. The objective here isn't (necessarily) to correct some sort of psychological or managerial issue. Rather, your looking to help folks maintain clarity and focus with KM...which can be very easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day grind.

The 12 Step KM process involves:
  • Admitting that successful, sustainable KM takes time; It won’t happen overnight
  • Recognizing that a strategic approach/mindset is essential to achieving the goals of KM
  • Documenting and measuring KM activities (and maintaining an historical account) is critical to planning for success
  • Strategizing and planning around KM metrics, best practices, and lessons learned
  • Promoting knowledge stewardship and championing the values of KM
The Principles of 12 Step KM
  1. We accept that improving knowledge management is a communal effort and that we are merely facilitators
  2. We fully believe in the promise of KM, that it will improve operational efficiency, promote innovation, and, ultimately, increase market share and profitability
  3. We believe that a strategic approach/mindset is essential to achieving the goals of KM
  4. We will audit knowledge sharing/behaviors, practices and policies thoroughly and evaluate our findings critically
  5. We will develop strategies that honestly and fearlessly reflect organizational needs
  6. We will present an honest accounting of the State of KM to all stakeholders
  7. We will provide sufficient marketing and education on the proposed strategy to key stakeholders to obtain buy-in and support
  8. We will work with key stakeholders to prioritize strategic objectives and pursue them in accordance with a comprehensive project plan
  9. We will routinely assess the demand for KM services and work collaboratively across the organization to achieve KM goals
  10. We will establish and report, regularly, on KM metrics and key performance indicators, as well as lessons learned and action reports
  11. We will commit ourselves to our own professional growth and development
  12. We will actively promote knowledge stewardship, champion the values of KM, and work to strengthen KM as an organizational unit
Whether you're building a team/function/strategy from scratch or pumping new life into something already in motion, 12 Step KM is a fantastic way to provide staff and champions with consistent direction and guidance on KM strategy and values as well as the tools and resources to support them in executing their tasks in the face of organizational roadblocks.

January 19, 2011

Knowledge Mismanaged: 7 Common Mistakes Organizations Make Implementing KM

Well, the weather in the A-T-L is very much improved and I'm looking forward to getting on the court and working out some laziness. Hopefully my muscles haven't atrophied too much in the last few weeks since I'm sure drunken karaoke renditions of Cee Lo’s insta-classic “Fuck You” by me and my crew, Scandalous & The Braintrust doesn't qualify as a workout (which is why I'm learning the choreography for my new favorite jawn, Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” to perform drunkenly during karaoke someplace far far away from Atlanta).

We’re barely two weeks into 2011 and after some interesting interviews, conversations, and networking encounters I've decided that the greatest KM need of 2011 is client-centered education on KM (and what it isn't, wasn't, and ain't never gonna be). To that end I've been hard at work revamping my client presentation and organizing (what I think are) some useful articles/white papers and I thought I'd kick-off my first post of the new year with an excerpt from a piece I'm working on entitled "Knowledge Mismanaged".

Best wishes for an adventurous and auspicious new year to all of you!

Knowledge Mismanaged: 7 Common Mistakes Organizations Make Implementing KM
  1. Having an unclear, poorly conceived, inadequate, or nonexistent vision or scope for KM
    The literature on KM has come a long way over the last 10 years and even a cursory review reveals that KM isn’t IT, unfortunately explaining what KM isn’t doesn’t always help explain what KM is. That understanding is critical to properly scoping and setting expectations for KM initiatives.

    What is knowledge management?
    In a nutshell, knowledge management (KM) is the set of strategies organizations develop to improve how knowledge and information resources are shared (identified, captured, organized, and disseminated) and leveraged. As a field, KM is highly multi-disciplinary, encompassing and drawing upon several business functions, many of which are fully developed in their own right (e.g., IT, Strategy, Marketing, Sales, Customer Relationship Management, etc.).

    Why invest in knowledge management?
    There is no such thing as an organization that isn’t managing knowledge. When organizations express an interest in KM what they are really saying is: “What we’re currently doing isn’t working for us.” A strategic approach to KM is one that, ultimately, focuses on refining and strengthening operational efficiency to target bottom line goals of increased profitability, enhanced and elevated customer/client experience, and improved employee performance and morale.

  2. Failure to conduct a pre-strategy assessment
    As with any strategic initiative, assessing the organization prior to initiative launch/implementation is an important first step in identifying the gap between current-state practices and behaviors and the desired future-state. A KM Audit provides insight into the ways in which knowledge and information are shared, and assists in identifying critical KM needs. In addition to serving as a benchmark for strategic planning the KM audit is a valuable tool for building a list of the skills necessary to drive the KM strategy.

  3. Building a KM strategy around a knowledge management system or application
    Despite the commonly accepted belief (among KM professionals) that KM is not IT (read: having a KM or content management system does not constitute knowledge management) far too many organizations attempt to follow this route to KM success by purchasing a commercial off the shelf application and building a process or strategy around it. Rather than spending valuable time and money bending your organizational needs around a system or tool, take the time, up-front, to identify your needs and then search for the system and/or tools best suited to meet them.

  4. Developing knowledge management systems in a vacuum
    Even when taking a “KM is IT” approach organizations routinely develop their systems, seemingly, in a vacuum failing to obtain sufficient input from assorted users, stakeholders, and usability experts to assess and consider access/usage habits and preferences in order to influence taxonomy schemas and navigational structures.

  5. Retaining the wrong human resources to execute the KM strategy
    Otherwise known as, hiring to the level of your ignorance of KM! All KM needs are not the same and neither are the Knowledge Managers tasked with addressing them. Aside from the strategic plan, having the right people to lead and support the KM initiative is the most critical factor in its success. Cutting a swath through the mountain of potential applicants to identify the best candidates is not only dependent upon compiling a relevant, realistic skill-set but in clarifying the type of KM role – Is this an entry-level, junior, or senior position? Is this role technical or strategic? Is the need for a KM expert or a professional (in another field) with KM experience/exposure?

  6. Not collecting data to measure for success
    Despite the pressure to demonstrate the ROI of knowledge management, organizations often fail to establish clear, relevant metrics and capture the data necessary to present historical trends about both the information systems in use and the behaviors of the KM strategy’s target audience. Such metrics provide invaluable insight into the extent to which the KM initiative is realizing its goals and achieving its mandate.

  7. Lack of organization-wide KM marketing and education
    For some reason organizations seem to think that KM processes, protocols and systems will sell themselves and that the target audience will clamor to get on board the KM-ship. Not so! It’s important to clearly and plainly define what KM means to the organization; sell KM in practical, relevant, digestible chunks, and pursue buy-in at every level.

November 22, 2010

KM Admonition: In Case of KM Emergency

KM Attention Trap: Bad Knowledge Management

October 25, 2010

The Cult of Knowledge Management

Although it might not seem like it from all of the activity on this blog, I have been writing my ass off the last few months. Unfortunately, the down side of doing it offline is that I have to rev up my creative juices in order to write as freely as my wit and wrongness require. Thankfully, a little “dab” of Cher and Junior from my undergrad party days at Backstreet seems to help.

Ahhh, the club days. It seems like just yesterday that I was screaming for a DJ and sweating alcohol and second hand smoke into some ridiculous get-up. Wait, it was yesterday – house party, then MJQ and my favorite new cocktail: JD and sweet iced tea. Tell me again when I’m supposed to grow the hell up?!?!?! Well, as long as my Wii fit age is less than my real age I’m gonna keep whippin' my hair back and forth!

Anywho, a few months ago, I was researching social movements for inspiration on KM Branding when I came across a typology of social movements based on the work of the late anthropologist, David Aberle. As shown below, Aberle proposed four types of social movements (Alternative, Redemptive, Reformative, and Revolutionary) that revolved around two questions: (1) Who is the movement attempting to change, and (2) How much change is being advocated?

  • Alternative social movements seek to facilitate limited change within a limited population. Example: Planned Parenthood, because it’s directed toward people of childbearing age to teach about the consequences of sex.
  • Redemptive social movements also operate within a limited population, but seek to bring about a radical change. Example: Some religious sects fit here, especially ones that recruit members to be ‘reborn’.
  • Reformative social movements target the entire population while seeking to facilitate only a limited change. Example: Environmental movements, because they encourage everyone to aid in improving the environment.
  • Revolutionary social movements seek to (radically) change all of society. Example: The Communist party is one example of a movement seeking to radically alter social institutions.
Since two of my previous approaches – Green KM and Guerrilla KM (‘reformative’ and ‘revolutionary’, respectively) – were a surprising and unexpected fit, I challenged myself to round out the model with two additional approaches: The Cult of KM (Redemptive) and (my upcoming) 12 Step KM (Alternative).

Despite all of the negative information out there about cult leaders and cult formation, I’ve had a blast with the Cult of KM. I suppose it's understandable given that cult leaders aren’t really perceived as the most positive people in the world. Actually, because of their ability to exert influence and authority over others to the extent that folks will do anything for them (and a general lack of hesitation about doing so) cult leaders are an extremely dangerous lot. Still, as much as we condemn them there are plenty of folks out there who wouldn’t mind having their mojo! For knowledge managers, the ability to build a cult-like following can make a world of difference. Like, let’s say, the difference between a bright future and a career change.

Why a Cult of KM?
Let’s be honest, building and championing organizational initiatives can be straight up ridiculous! And, it sure as hell doesn’t get any easier when the initiative involves changing not only processes, but behaviors. The questions people ask regarding change initiatives are reminiscent of the terrible-two’s: Why? Why do I have to change? Why should I change? Does everybody have to change? Aren’t we changing every day? What if I don’t want to change? Can I change into whatever I want? Why do you get to tell me what to change? What’s change?

Just to refresh your memory, the objective of KM Branding is to provide education and promote awareness of KM; in effect, responding to (and attempting to mitigate) these questions as well as the bazillion others you’re sure to be confronted with as you go about doing “that KM voodoo that you do so well”. Contrary to the stereotype, in building a cult of KM you’re not trying to create a mindless mass of followers…unless you are. Hopefully, you’re not quite so sketchy and truly focused on building quality relationships and developing a level of KM understanding that enables its institutionalization.

Unlike (the equally radical) Guerrilla KM, which utilizes more of a grassroots, “power to the people” campaign/approach, a Cult of KM focuses on building social equity (or capital) among a limited, targeted group of organizational stakeholders who are in the best position to help promote and champion KM.

Creating a KM Cult(ure)
“It is important to recognize, however, that so long as only one person holds a religious idea, no true religion exists. We conceptualize successful cult innovation as a social process in which innovators both invent new religious ideas and transmit them to other persons in exchange for rewards.” (Bainbridge & Stark, 1979)
As practitioners, no matter how great we think KM is, it doesn’t mean diddly if we’re the only ones who recognize that greatness. Furthermore, you can be a fuckin’ “A” fantastic knowledge manager with charisma to spare, but if you’re not actively engaged in proselytizing KM (and asserting yourself as the organizational authority on the subject) success will be fleeting, if at all. I mean, c’mon, if you’re not actively engaging the audience you’re after, how the hell are they supposed to know you’re out there? KM may well be the set of strategies developed and pursued to improve how knowledge is shared and leveraged, but executing these strategies isn’t enough – you need to create a movement that elevates KM from good business to a religious experience. No surprise, however, that cultivating this type of experience is easier said than done.

As organizations adapt to rapidly changing markets with continuous efforts to improve operational efficiency, change fatigue has, increasingly, become a common problem across industries. The result: people don’t "fall" for every new fangled trend or technology comes along…especially when it’s marketed as a panacea. The beauty of KM, however, is that managing knowledge is something organizations are constantly and actively engaged in so you don’t have to sell them on KM as a new, profit-making/money-saving fad; you just have to sell them on your ability to improve how the company is managing its knowledge. To do this, you have to demonstrate amazing (prophet-like) awareness, insight and perceptivity into the issues facing the organization while discreetly solving some of these issues – and publicizing the hell out of the results (of course, focusing less on what you did and more on what you achieved to build a reputation).

At any rate, I’m hopeful that shedding some light on these four building blocks of a cult will be useful in securing the influence and social capital necessary to spread the “gospel of KM” in any organization. (Props to Tobias et al, Banbridge & Stark, and Rick DeLong's Socionics blog for providing some of my research material.)

Four Components of a Cult
  • Compensators
  • Proselytization
  • Asserting Authority
  • Maintaining Control
Roping the Mark: Dispensing Compensation
Every now and then I feel the need to drop an ugly truth about current KM practices that I hope will enlighten a lot more than it exasperates. With absolutely no disrespect to all of the successful, functioning KM initiatives out there, some of you don’t have so much of a KM culture as a Religion of the Yellow Stick in which people are dragged, kicking and screaming, into KM activity rather than brought over at their level of understanding and in their own good time. Granted, time is a crucial factor and conversion isn’t the most expedient route but the long-term success of KM is in its sustainability beyond any mandate. It’s not how many active participants/users (read: seats filled) you might have on any given day (when brandishing your stick), but an accepted belief in KM that leads to ingrained, normalized (read: ritual) KM behavior (practicing and preaching).

This is important to know because securing the buy-in of organizational stakeholders isn’t like converting some “rice Christian” with the promise of KM’s transformational qualities and the customary “quick win”. Nor is it likely that these stakeholders will be lined up outside your door waiting for you to save them (at least not to start with, muahahahaha). No, chances are you’ll be pulling a Carl Lewis running after folks and trying to nail down time to talk about KM, so, like any good salesperson/cult leader (same difference in this context), you have to make your time count.

Banbridge & Stark define compensators as “satisfying articles of faith, postulations that strongly desired rewards will be obtained in the distant future or in some other unverifiable context”. In KM-speak that means having a strong KM value proposition; and by strong I mean tricked out like a Transformer! KM professionals should, at a minimum, already be involved in conducting SWOT analyses, market research, and understanding the history of change initiatives (both failed and successful), the organizational culture, and the general attitude towards change. But, the key to developing the most beguiling and irresistible compensators is in thoroughly understanding the personal and professional needs of your stakeholders. What motivates them – money, power/influence, respect…genuine altruism? Only by understanding their motivations can you exploit them!

I know, I know, I sound like one shady bee-yotch right now, but step outside of my seemingly sinister scenario for a moment into the cold, harsh light of day (and your marks’ shoes) and ask yourself: Aside from a top-down mandate to do so (and people still find ways of ignoring those – you know exactly what I’m talking about) why should any of these people give a rat’s ass about you and your KM initiative? What do they really get out of drinking the kool-aid or swallowing “the little red pill”?

Sidenote: For your sake, I hope that you won’t make the mistake of assuming that just because it’s someone’s job to do something that this argument alone will be sufficient to sway them. And, unless you’re dealing with a hardcore altruist, don’t bank on “the benefit to all” argument. Lastly, please, please, "Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin' there in his ghost manger, just lookin' at his Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors" don’t try to persuade anyone with the idea that it will make them look good or impress higher ups (even if it will) unless you are absolutely, positively sure that this is their Achilles heel.

That said, if the only answer you can come up with (to my pre-sidenote-rant question) is some tired, re-hashed diatribe on the bennies of KM (blah, blah, blah) then not only should you expect to be blown off (hopefully in a Miss Manners approved fashion), you kinda deserve it. In business, as in life, people prioritize relationships and activities according to what matters most to them (not you). Compensators should be relevant to the mark! You have to find each of their Achilles heel – vanity, ambition, social conscience – and play it (with every ounce of class you possess) to the hilt. Roping the mark is not so much about selling KM as it is about selling yourself as a solutions provider, the answer to their unspoken prayers; you’re “roping” them into a relationship with you in which you are regarded with great respect, thoughtfulness, and consideration.

You want their confidence.

I’m sure that some people may not see the point in separating their KM and “solutions provider” pitches but keep in mind that you’re building a “following” by developing relationships, not by selling a service or product – even your compensators are simply a hook! Every half decent sales professional knows that the highest quality and most enduring buyer-seller relationships are built on trust that has been carefully cultivated – not just having the best price point at the moment. While some of your stakeholders might be characterized (or even self-describe) as having little time for “small talk” or sales pitches with requests that folks simply "cut to the chase", your success as a KM cult leader is dependent upon setting the pace.

The Royal Road: Socializing KM
“…I guess Professor Zueblin is right when he says that thinking is the hardest work many people ever have to do, and they don't like to do any more of it than they can help. They look for a royal road through some short cut in the form of a clever scheme or stunt, which they call the obvious thing to do; but calling it doesn't make it so.” (Excerpted from Obvious Adams, p50)
The classic idea of a cult is that it’s a con, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, pull back the curtain and the all-powerful Oz is a powerless fraud (read: no skills, experience, and/or abilities) who was swept away in a hot air balloon (read: momentum of a, potentially great, idea). So, one might reasonably ask, “If you’ve got the goods and can deliver on your promises, then why all the hoopla, why the need for the con-like approach?” Basically? Because people like to be schmoozed, they want to be seduced…they want to believe that there is a “there” out there! As the timeless tale of Obvious Adams illustrates, some folks have a difficult time acknowledging and accepting the perfect simplicity in a strategy or idea; a fact that leaves many susceptible to idiots and con-men (go you!!). So, it advances the cause (well, your cause, at any rate) to craft a mythology around KM, wrapping the KM vision and strategy within a grand illusion that sets stakeholders off on a great adventure down a royal road to the solution they’re seeking.

Before you “poo poo” the idea, consider that any idiot can offer a solution – what makes yours stand-out, what gives it substance and merit, makes it worth listening to? The ability to deliver solutions with an appropriate and convincing display of showmanship is an art that distinguishes “good” from "great". Mythologies, like fairy-tales, are an enduring, time tested medium for imparting knowledge, wisdom and values. And, unlike, many traditional business communiqués, they travel well across an organization (nothing travels better than gossip, conjecture, and enigmatic tales). In addition to the fun, excitement and entertainment value inherent in this approach (fun is not anathema to business no matter what you learned in B-school), a well-crafted mythology can be an effective tool for piquing interest in and sparking discussion about KM, socializing the KM vision and desired values of knowledge sharing, and promoting KM’s various services and benefits.
"It [the fairy tale] addresses itself to the child’s sense of courage and adventure. The tale advises the child: Take your courage in hand and go out to meet the world head on. According to Bruno Bettelheim, the fairy tale offers this promise: If you have courage and if you persist, you can overcome any obstacle, conquer any foe.

"By recognizing a child’s daily fears, appealing to his courage and confidence, and by offering hope, the fairy tale presents the child with a means by which he can understand the world and himself. And those who would deodorize the tales impose a fearsome lie upon the child. J.R.R. Tolkien cautioned, “It does not pay to leave a dragon out of your calculations if you live near him." (The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease)
Perhaps one of the most pervasively frustrating issues hounding knowledge management professionals – regardless of experience or organizational type – revolves around making KM work. Often, the answer lies, simply, in making KM real – an actual organizational challenge requiring an actual strategic solution. I mean, hey, if you can’t sell KM, then how do you expect to sell a KM solution? And, continuing my trend of advising on what not to assume, don’t assume that just because a KM need has been identified (as evidenced by the job posting that lead to you getting hired) that there is universal agreement on what KM is or the best approach to managing KM-related issues. Even in the (shocking, amazing) event that such consensus exists, there will, likely, still be a need to socialize KM that will facilitate building the foundation for your emergence as the KM cult leader (a.k.a solutions provider). After all, unlike charlatans of old who relied upon deception and ambiguity, the solution you are offering truly exists! The mythology you create not only illuminates, placing a spotlight on organizational needs with a colorful, inventive lamp, it also demonstrates a profound awareness and understanding of these needs and spreads the message (the “good word”) that there is an enlightened and achievable way of meeting these needs.

See there, you’re not some ratchet con-man – you’re offering an explanation for phenomena beyond folks comprehension, a sense of security in the face of uncertainty, and most of all, you’re offering hope …hope that there is a reason, that there is a way, that there are answers to all of the unanswered questions and unmet needs. Really, your organization is so lucky to have you.

And it’s important you make sure they know it.

Parting the Sea: Asserting Your Guru-ness
“In life one has to face a huge assortment,
Of nauseating fads and good advice,
There's health and fitness, diet and deportment,
And other pointless forms of sacrifice,
Conversation? Wit? I am a doubter,
Manners? Charm? They're no way to impress,
So forget the inner me, observe the outer,
I am what I wear and how I dress"
(Excerpted from My Strongest Suit, Aida)
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of proselytization, particularly when it comes to spiritual matters. I’ve always felt that God, who set the stars in the Heavens and created the Earth and the Sea and all life on this planet probably doesn’t need PR (especially when you consider some of the people speaking on His/Her behalf). Color me crazy, but I’m thinking the work speaks for itself, y’know? But hey…that’s my take.

Wannabe cult leaders on the other hand, could definitely benefit! Shameless self-promotion may be gauche but what’s the use of spreading “the good word” of KM if folks don’t know that there’s a bonafide KM guru in their midst? You’ve gained their trust, you’ve spread the gospel, now it’s time to reap the harvest.

When you compare the roles typically ascribed to a guru (teacher, leader, motivator, counselor) against the ones a Knowledge Manager must play (all of the above PLUS evangelist, confidant, problem solver, hand-holder, networker, make-shit-happen-er) the gap between guru and Knowledge Manager is virtually non-existent…that is, if you have the cojones to take the leap! For those of you that do, a few pointers..."
  1. Pursue stealth relationships.
    In their book Captive Hearts, Captive Minds authors Tobias, Lalich, and Langone describe cult leaders as having "an outstanding ability to charm and win over followers. They beguile and seduce. They enter a room and garner all the attention. They command the utmost respect and obedience." Acquiring the initial trust of your mark is only the first step in building long-term relationships that deepen your rapport, strengthen your influence, and enable you to discreetly identify and discover critical needs (and by that, I mean plural – go hard or go home!) so that you can manifest solutions seemingly out of thin air. The key is in identifying multiple needs that you address at your discretion (not theirs) which reinforces the notion that you are indeed the Wizard of KM and not a one hit wonder.
  2. Be a problem solver, not a problem explainer.
    Although I’m fond of being “Mr. Full Disclosure” and a firm believer in transparency, the culty-guru in me recognizes that my effectiveness isn’t tied to these goody-goody character traits. Both you and your audience (but mostly you) want to feel like you are a miracle worker, so cut to the chase. Problem solve with minimal to no explanation of how. For solutions with long-term benefits, avoid speaking too much about them up front so that you can mine them for future wins. Take metrics, for example, unless it’s a key part of the solution being provided, don’t disclose that you’re tracking them until you generate your first report. Besides, too much time spent on talking about a problem (or its solution) is just going to give folks a headache anyway.
  3. Keep it cool and zen-like.
    While there are moments when showing a chink in the armor (never more than two) can be beneficial to growing your legend, the ability to project awe-inspiring confidence and intrepidness along with an uncanny sense of control are important assets for a culty-guru. Fueling the flame of (belief in) your enlightenment requires anticipating and planning for future needs and challenges in order to remain two steps ahead of your stakeholders while giving the appearance of either being nonchalant or excited (whichever feels right) about these developments. Keep in mind that when your stakeholders are stressed out, it’s business as usual; when you’re stressed out, there’s a problem. Also, god-like confidence: sexy as hell!
  4. Think before you act and act before you speak!
    Deliver on the promise of something great and transformative by speaking more with your actions and less with your words. And, when you do speak (for example, in a meeting where solutions are being solicited), speak plainly, directly (matter of fact), and succinctly, declaring your solution as if it were the most natural and obvious thing in the world. Mind Control 101 author JK Ellis offers the following advice: “Be accessible as a person but present your knowledge and wisdom as being rare, expensive, mysterious, and only for those who are truly ready for it. This compromise allows you to build deep personal bonds with people yet have them want more of your presence."
  5. Manage your accessibility.
    Given your target audience, you should fully expect potential followers to be high on need and low on time (for anyone or anything they don’t consider a priority), ensuring that you – capable, ambitious, self-directed minx that you are – are always in demand. But do not, I repeat, do not, make yourself available to be anyone’s problem-solving bitch! Building a cult of KM isn’t just about branding KM you’re also branding yourself! Remember that not only are you an expert but you’re the expert providing critical solutions, so, at a minimum, be only as available as your adherents. Why is this important? Because if your target audience fails to fully appreciate your time and talent then the social equity you’ve been questing after (“my precious”) ain’t gonna happen. Social equity isn’t conferred just because you made shit happen, it’s given because your expertise is valued, respected, and greatly desired. Plus, being available at the drop of a dime gives the impression that you’re a genie in a bottle.
  6. Build (and maintain) the mystery.
    Downplay the amount of work involved in making KM happen. Create the illusion that executing KM is a magical process, regardless of the actual work involved. You want stakeholders to believe that you have a gift for making KM work beyond anything that they could do themselves. Hold fast to this knowledge – your job is to improve sharing of organizational information, not your trade secrets. And when you do share, don’t give it out like candy.
  7. Herd the sheep, reinforce the message.
    When creating a movement of this magnitude it’s easy to get lost in the sea of glory, power, and public exaltation that is sure to mark your ascension however, in addition to the many feats of awesomeness you will, no doubt, perform, it’s important to regularly set aside time to “light the way” for your flock. Being a leader (and physical manifestation of KM) means being a mentor…a shepherd. You must accept your responsibility for providing guidance and wisdom. By creating and seizing learning opportunities – the teachable moment – to improve their understanding and awareness of KM and good knowledge sharing principles not only are you actively involved in shaping their concept of KM, you are asserting yourself as the authority on all things KM.
The Wizard of KM: Maintaining Control
The Wizard of Oz is an excellent example of how effective good mythology and creative theatre can be used to advance an agenda. This dude, literally, blew into a cult leader’s dream – an entire town eagerly willing to offer up their hopes, submit to delusions, and confer power upon some jamoke in a hot air balloon. He didn’t even have to create his own mythology just perpetuate the one they built for him! Sadly, his masterful, though deceitful, use of theatre was less about consolidating power (‘cause he really didn’t have any) and more about not getting busted and, possibly, killed by a wicked witch. In the end, his duplicity was uncovered by a dog.

A dog. Damn.

Despite the potential sketchy-ness of the tactics I espouse in building a KM Cult, I still believe it can be achieved without sacrificing the values of sustainability, empowerment, and community development that epitomize my KM vision (“reaaally I do, reaaally”). Having a hustle doesn’t mean that you can’t be sincere and on the up-and-up (or mean that you’re the anti-Knowledge Manager). Neither does having good intentions mean that you have to be Mother Teresa. In fact, after all the work you’ve put into cultivating your little movement, you’re going to need a dab of “slick Rick” and a bit of theatre to ensure its continued success by keeping your flock on the straight and narrow and fending off dime store demagogues! The triple threat you’ll definitely want to stay on top of:
  • Time constraints that interfere with stakeholder participation/indoctrination
  • Stakeholder skepticism
  • Stakeholder belief that their regular input is unnecessary or irrelevant
While theatre is a useful tool for engaging and amusing stakeholders (e.g., creating a name and special language for the cult; using nicknames to promote camaraderie; assigning totems and gifting physical representations, etc.) the weapon of choice for maintaining control is, without a doubt, thought reform.

As defined by Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, thought reform (a.k.a. "brainwashing"; I prefer “behavior modification” for our purposes) is the “systematic and incremental application of psychological and social influence techniques to produce specific attitudinal and behavioral changes.” These changes are meant to occur without being immediately noticeable to the mark but I have a hard time seeing some of the more traditional techniques making any sort of a splash in a corporate environment. Come on, ritual dieting and fasting: Food is what gets most people through the workday so unless you plan on slipping something into their Lean Cuisine you’re not likely to change their diet or cause them to quit eating full-stop. And, while you might get some attention for going on a food strike I guarantee it won’t be the kind you’re after. Then there’s group pressure and “love bombing”: You don’t have to force singing, hugging, touching, and flattery on anyone – this stuff happens easily enough under the influence of alcohol at Happy Hours and raucous holiday parties all the time! Unless your strategy is to blackmail anyone stupid enough to get caught on film, you might wanna take a pass. My favorite has to be isolation and separation: are you kidding me, most folks pray for the opportunity to be isolated and separated from colleagues and co-workers.

Luckily, I’ve outlined a list of more useful tactics for altering stakeholders’ perception of KM.
  • Meditation, Affirmations, and Admonitions…Oh My!
  • Objective: KM Consciousness-raising Rationale: These practices encourage stakeholders to continuously think about their issues from a KM perspective. As a culty-guru, you want to foster the habit of adherents soliciting your advice/feedback and asking themselves “How can KM help (HCKMH)?” each time a challenge arises. In the beginning you may have to wean them by selectively and proactively addressing needs (that you’ve identified) while impressing upon them the criticality of taking the first steps to contact KM ("KM helps those who contact KM"). Consider a framed desktop admonition: "Breathe in. Breathe out. Call KM." Also, consider routinely tweeting affirmations! Another weaning technique: as you become aware of challenges facing stakeholders send out brief, unsolicited emails offering sage (yet vague) advice with a reminder of your availability to help (hold on to full solutions until you score a face-to-face). Introducing yoga into your KM workshops is a creative way of encouraging stakeholders to take valuable “me time” while teaching them how to channel their energy into being more focused, deliberate, and productive in their roles. And “Kaaaaay Emmmmm” makes an amazing chant!
  • Sharing in Community
  • Objective: Symbolic self-surrender Rationale: Lead KM workshops in which stakeholders “confess” their thoughts and feelings about KM (i.e., concerns, level of understanding), sharing knowledge (i.e., impact on personal power, status), workplace issues, etc. This is a clever method of empowering stakeholders (in ways that support your agenda) by addressing and allaying fears, increasing rapport, and uncovering new opportunities. This is also a fantastic opportunity to redistribute power! As the facilitator, the person responsible for absolving stakeholders of their "sins" and guiding them towards enlightenment, your role as shepherd and guru becomes increasingly evident.
  • Stigmatize Wrong Behavior
  • Objective: Reinforce standards Rationale: As a rule, I don’t agree with the practice of rewarding employees for demonstrating good knowledge sharing…'cause it’s kinda your job and you shouldn’t be rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway. On the other hand, vilifying bad or poor knowledge sharing helps to set and reinforce standards. Obviously, you can’t go around tacking scarlet letters on people (though if you could I wonder what letter(s) would be used…suggestions?), but creating marketing campaigns in response to unacceptable behaviors – especially campaigns that target the perpetrators (without naming names) – carry a special stigma all their own.
  • Build Attention Traps
  • Objective: Make KM the center of the universe Rationale: Though the concept is decades old, attention economics has become my new mini-obsession, especially since we seem to be living at the height of the Attention Economy! In every aspect of our lives, we are barraged by an insane variety of social, political, economic, and technological forces vying for our attention. Moreover, we are actively exchanging our attention for currency. Attention traps are designed to create a "centripetal gaze" that, essentially, sucks people in. Once you’ve "cracked the stakeholder code" and succeeded in securing a measure of trust bombard them with provocative and alluring attention traps designed to place KM, squarely, at the center of their universe (“KM is all!”) and enhance their commitment to active knowledge stewardship.
  • The Tao of KM
  • Objective: Establish a "higher purpose" among stakeholders Rationale: A common cult teaching is that members of the group share a higher, divine purpose to which their communion and activities are ascribed. Given the radical change your KM cult is attempting to make within such a limited population, this concept is practically tailor made. Indeed, targeted your stakeholders because they’re special – they possess the social capital you need to acquire in order to do bigger, better things with KM across the larger organization. So, advising them that they have a higher purpose (let’s say, to transform the company) isn’t necessarily a lie or a bad thing because they do. Attributing problems experienced by those outside of the group (perhaps in another department, division, or company) as the consequence of being on the "wrong path" is wading into slightly murkier waters. However you choose to spin this “higher purpose” it should appeal to your stakeholders self-interest and entwine their needs/wants with the organizational mission to promote congruence between their personal agendas and beneficial to the organization’s bottom line.

July 14, 2010

Quick & Dirty: Academically Smart, Practically Brilliant (Thoughts on a KM Consultancy)

Like Wimbledon, June has come and gone. And while I didn't miss a second of the tennis action (Venus and Fed's shocking upsets; ReRe and Rafa's unsurprising wins), I was decidedly less committed to my blog.

In my defense, immediately following the Memorial Day holiday I made the decision to focus on developing a new business strategy for my fledgling consultancy throughout the month of June and it's certainly required the committment.

I'm not fully prepared to write a manifesto on the process (yet, though I'd like to at some point), but I could sure use a few minutes to eject some mental debris (read: bitch, moan, gripe about) regarding my primary challenges strategizing an independent KM consultancy
  • Determining service offerings: One of the driving factors in my decision to launch a consultancy was the growing realization that a lot of smaller and mid-sized organizations have a KM need that isn't being met by larger consulting firms, particulary in the areas of KM Auditing and strategic planning, but even with that limited focus it’s amazing to me what the scope of work encompasses around these services. I'm finding that it's super critical to outline in detail exactly what you will (and can) do and what you won’t (and can’t) do. Not only will this help you manage the demands on your time (remember that you’re not just doing the work, you’re building a consultancy – managing your time is trés critical), it also helps you to identify potential opportunities (and markets) within the scope of your services. Furthermore, when you're having a conversation with clients and prospects about your services, I think it makes you sound polished - like you’ve got your shit together, instead of bumbling through the discussion with comments like, “hmm, I think I can do that, let me look into it and I’ll get back to you”. Or worse, agreeing to do a job without fully understanding the committment and constraints. After all, the ability to properly gauge your pricing methodology and ensure that your contracts/SOWs are very specific is key to ensuring that you aren’t giving away your time and killing yourself with work you’re not getting paid for and.
  • Establishing a pricing methodology: Speaking about pricing, lol. I remember back in the day when I was an assistant in E&Y’s HR Consulting Practice. Strange as it may seem, I used to love working with the various studies and reports; I just loved having ready access to data. How I wish there were similar reports on KM compensation or pricing on KM services. I’ve had some assistance from generic Google hits on pricing consulting services that provided insight to setting baseline hourly consulting fees (i.e., think beyond converting annual compensation to an hourly rate plus bennies, also consider overhead expenses and generating revenue in order to grow your business; understand what the market will bear, but also consider value pricing your services; yadda yadda yadda) and I've had a little (mostly unenlightening, though greatly appreciated) dialogue over at LinkedIn.

    It truly is an alchemical process.

    Once I've had some real-time feedback from actual clients and prospects and made the necessary adjustments, I will definitely post some helpful guidelines specific to KM on this subject.
  • Marketing KM services: If I didn't already know this (as a one-time Marketing major and earnest believer in the power Branding), then I sure as hell would now - you really have to know who you are, what service you can/will offer (as well as it's valu), and who your (potential) market before you should even put out a shingle. And you really should be thinking five steps ahead (of your clients, prospects, and competitors). Setting up a website, rifling through your contacts, and even pounding the pavement just won’t cut it. This is a niche field and you have to sell yourself not only as an expert, but as a real-life practitioner, someone who’s been in the trenches – Academically smart, practically brilliant.

    As much as I love to inform the field, I’m knee deep in setting up my own practice so I’m not hardly about to lay my marketing strategy out for public consumption, but I will say that you have to 1) brand yourself as well as you’d brand your KM strategies and 2) craft your marketing messages wisely.
I'm finding that, in many ways, setting up a (hopefully) successful KM consultancy, is a lot like developing a successful KM strategy: apply the KISS methodology liberally; keep an eye on the details (dot your "I's" and cross your "T's"); don't be afraid to seek out impartial (professional) opinions; practice pragmatism (expect the best, plan for the worst), and; always, ALWAYS be more adventurous than afraid.

June 4, 2010

Bloggerview: Denis Meingan

Blogger View - Denis Meingan

June 1, 2010

Out of The Box - Week Ending 05/28

Sooooooo, while nearly my entire posse spent Memorial Day weekend partying across the USA (well, Lil Magic not so much, but he's new to Austin so it kinda feels like he took a vacay) I enjoyed a relaxing weekend housesitting and taking care of Luke the cat, and Button's the dog (which means being their willing, human bitch - seriously, I'm not even a dog person and I love this animal), chillin' at the Jazz Festival on Saturday with Kelley and Nick, and watching the French Open religiously (whodathunk Robby Ginepri would be the last American man standing? Go May-retta!!). And, thanks to the power of cable, I watched a couple of movies I've passed at Block-head-buster many, many times. Adam and Steve proved that my instincts were spot on, but Zack and Miri Make a Porno just blasted to the top of the list of my favorite flicks!

Anywho, although I didn't do nearly as much writing this weekend as I thought I would, but I did manage to do some reading.
  • Trend of the Week: Is the so-called 'Statusphere' a hot branding trend which your KM efforts should be leveraging or a whole lotta BS?
  • Not one, not two, but three articles from Psychology Today on the power of sunshine. I suppose the lesson here is to pursue critical KM work on sunny days.
  • Epiphany of the Week: Timely and much needed wisdom from the ever inspriational Mark Pollard and sagacious Pamela Slim
  • How To of the Week: Six Ways To Spy On The Competition. If you have to resort to spying on the competition, I don't think it says much about the quality of your product or the ability of your sales folks but these tips are great for gaining insight into opportunities for KM in your organization.
  • Questions of the Week: Is Enterprise Architecture (EA) just another name for Knowledge Management and why does it seem that Booz Allen keeps trying to talk around KM
  • Economics ain't the only field that needs a new way of connecting employers with candidates!

May 26, 2010

Lil Jackie's KM Lifecycle: A Different Look

Thank God in Heaven above that this month is almost over.

Between the hard to schedule tennis matches, besties birthdays, and trying to avoid being in the middle of my parent's divorce (which my mother seems hell-bent to drag me into regardless of my protestations) May has been a tough month. Although there were some highlights, like quality time with Lil Magic who starts his dream job this week, spending much needed social time with my "South Cackalacky" girl, Nina, and playing a rawkin' game of Assassin for Brandy's birthday party. It was awesome! My crew took over a section of East Atlanta Village strapped with Nerf guns and lookin' good. Every "death" seemed like something out of a movie scene (even mine, sadly). We're definitely going to be doing that again.

So, I've been studying social movements over the last year and have drawn a lot of inspiration for my work and theories on KM. My Guerrilla KM post is just one example. During my research I came across this fantastic white paper on the Four Stages of Social Movements that got me thinking about the lifecycle of Knowledge Management. As you all know, KM Branding is one of my "things" and I'm always searching for novel approaches to educating folks about the field. The 'Four Stages' had me wondering about the lifecycle of a strategic approach to KM; exploring the way(s) in which KM impacts the organization and how it "lives" from inception of a strategy through to the ultimate goal of cultural adoption/integration (or rejection, if the strategy is unsuccessful).

Now, I'm familiar with traditional models of the  Knowledge Lifecycle that (like the example at left) illustrate some variation of the identify-capture-organize-disseminate framework, but these models seem geared more towards providing insight into knowledge rather than knowledge management (although McElroy's model, wordy though it is, offers up a bit more "meat"). And, at the risk of splitting hairs, these processes aren't, in my opinion, particularly cyclical. In fact, you can (and should) be engaged in a variety of these processes concurrently.

Anywho, using the "Four Stages" as a foundation, (Lil Jackie and) I came up with the following model outlining four proposed stages in the KM Lifecycle:

Note: There isn't any timeline applied to any of these stages, I perceive that organizations will move from one to the next as the time is right.

Stage I: Acknowledgement
  • Organizations either recognize the need for a strategic approach to their KM efforts or, following a previously unsuccessful strategy, initiate pursuit of a new approach.
  • Organizations may attempt to build a KM strategy themselves or, optimally, seek out the services of an “expert” to assist in some combination of organizational analysis (e.g., SWOT, GAP or KM Audit), strategic planning, and strategy execution.
Stage II: Mobilization
  • Organizations take an active (versus passive) approach to KM by executing a series of strategies to improve how knowledge is managed, including a Branding strategy focused on mobilizing awareness and support of the KM initiative.
  • During this stage, KM attempts to build social equity by demonstrating its value, benefit and utility to a broad range of stakeholders.
Stage III: Leverage
  • Following some success with mobilizing wider support of knowledge management (through aggressive Branding, documented "wins" and success stories, converting skeptics, etc.) the KM function has acquired some social equity and is perceived as less of a niche function or “pet project”.
  • The KM function (assertively) leverages the social equity it has acquired to influence a wider range of strategic planning efforts across the organization.
Stage IV: Normalization
  • At this stage, the practice, awareness, and understanding of KM is normalized across the organization. The degree and quality of this normalization (the extent to which KM and its activities are regarded as a "natural" part of the regular working environment) is indicative of the level of success or failure of the KM initiative.
  • A fully successful strategy is one in which KM has achieved cultural adoption and integration as identified by the following characteristics:
    • Organization-wide awareness and understanding of knowledge management - its purpose, benefit, and importance
    • An organizational culture possessed of a spirit of knowledge stewardship in which everyone is, at a minimum, aware of their individual responsibility to share and collaborate in community
    • Continuously evolving policies, practices, and technology tools that reflect, promote, and support a culture of knowledge sharing
    • Widespread, regular, active usage of KM tools and participation in community development efforts (such as CoPs).
  • A partially successful strategy might be one where KM fails to realize its potential (as previously described) owing to a number of factors (i.e., the culture is heavily change resistant; folks leading KM efforts were not aggressive, assertive or savvy enough to navigate the politics of the organization; or, the strategy simply wasn’t effective, etc.). Essentially, instead of KM positively influencing change in how the organization operates, the organization unduly influences how KM is implemented, limiting its role and impact. An example might be an organization that begins its KM initiative with a limited or narrow scope of the role that KM will play and resists widening this scope resulting in an implementation that provides exactly what was desired, but fails to deliver on the full potential of KM.
  • A completely failed strategy is one in which KM has been unsuccessful in achieving cultural adoption and integration resulting in the termination of the initiative. Termination is likely the result of a poor Branding strategy and failure to properly educate stakeholders - particularly leadership – on the importance and value of KM and consistently obtain buy-in at key strategy milestones.
  • A repressed or limited KM strategy doesn't have to remain so, indefinitely. Assuming that KM has experienced some success and "wins" and acquired some measure of equity, it is likely that KM will be perceived as having value - just not enough to immediately propel it to a higher/stronger role in the organization.
  • Likewise, strategy failure isn't necessarily a death sentence for KM. Assuming that the initial need for KM is still present (and acknowledged), it is probable that a new strategy will (inevitably) be pursued and/or new "experts" brought on board to implement it.
One final note: Unlike the "Four Stages" model, I don't see a point at which KM efforts will ever truly decline and by that, I mean, I don’t think that you should ever stop being actively involved in shaping your KM efforts. Instead I think that organizations will and should continue to pursue optimal normalization. Once that has been achieved, they will then employ a series of strategies to maintain that state. Interestingly, this whole process has had me questioning one of my core beliefs that Knowledge Managers should be working themselves out of a job. I do see this as a goal, perhaps, for smaller organizations (when an organization’s strategic planning includes KM as part of the overall process, not as a separate function). But, for larger organizations, I could see someone operating at a CKO role in the same manner an organization would employ a CFO or SVP of Marketing.

Truly, I guess you live, you learn (and then you buy Luvs!)

So there it is. As usual, all constructive feedback, criticisms and comments are welcome!

Peace out!

May 4, 2010

Lil Jackie's Elements of a KM Audit

Okay, April just totally flew by!  I'd feel bad about not blogging so much last month except that the weather picked up and, social butterfly that I am, I was more focused on playing tennis and getting my "swerve" on (that is, when I wasn't watching Glee, Project Runway, or catching up on General Hospital on YouTube).

Hey, I won't apologize for having a life (or succumbing to the boob tube).

Although, I do think that Dublin owes me a HUGE friggin' apology for coming in 7th at the Kentucky Derby. I could've used my winnings from the derby party I went to on Saturday to finance my drunken disorderly conduct during "Cinco de Drinko" tomorrow. Ah well, c'est la vie. At least I had KFC's Double Down to help fill the void loss brings - in my arteries! Actually, it tasted great, despite the fact that they really should consider swapping the Pepperjack (too spicy) for Monterey or Swiss and add lettuce and tomato to make it taste "fresher".

Anywho, I've been giving my KM Audit a bit of a spring cleaning to spruce it up for 2010. For those not in the know, a KM Audit is a type of action research aimed at understanding the ways in which an organization shares knowledge and information. Subsequently, the data collected from the KM Audit is used to develop and inform the KM strategy. While some folks use the auditing process solely to kick-off their KM efforts, I subscribe to the belief that a KM Audit should be an annual experience. Not only does it provide a regular status update/reality check of KM activity, it helps to illustrate the impact of a long-term, strategic KM initiative to organizational stakeholders. It also doubles as a great marketing tool for KM.

An effective KM Audit should be designed to identify and evaluate:
  • Formal (‘how things should be shared’) and informal (‘how things are actually being shared’) knowledge sharing practices and behaviors.
  • The variety of knowledge, information, and content management systems (and their usage) across the organization.
  • Perceptions and expectations of knowledge management
  • Organizational needs and challenges related to sharing knowledge and information
As illustrated in the graphic below, the KM Audit utilizes a mix of research methods to achieve these results.

The Policy Review can be conducted before, during, or after the survey, but I think that doing it before (particularly when it's the inaugural audit) might help to inform survey construction. Likewise with the 1-on-1 Interviews; Focus groups, however, should be put off until after the survey, since it's those results which will determine discussion topics. As far as the Survey, standard rules of survey design apply - keep it simple, keep it brief, make sure questions are clear and concise, and, resist the temptation to ask EVERYTHING. Your questions should help you to paint a picture, not the Sistine Chapel. Lastly,since you'll be wanting to make comparisons from year-to-year, be sure that your survey will stand the test of time.

Two important points to consider about the KM Auditing process:
  1. It's okay if you only pursue 1 or 2 elements instead of all 3.
  2. Having a documented, well thought out Implentation/Execution Plan of Action (PoA) is essential

Take your pick
I'm a talker so I'm fond of saying many things over and over again. One of my personal faves is the "Right Way vs the Best Way": We don't always have the opportunity to do things the "right" way; sometimes we simply do things the best way we can, but when we can do things the "right" way, we should make every effort to do so. As a KM practitioner, I know that this is a daily reality in our work. If you have the time and the buy-in to undertake a full KM Audit, then do it to it! But, if you're only able to pursue 1 or 2 elements, it's okay, just be mindful of the data that you're not capturing (and be sure that your data reporting reflects this).

Action planning
A successful KM Audit isn't one that just gives you the results you were hoping for. A successful KM Audit is one that is rolled out on time and yields a great participation/response rate. And, if experience has taught me anything, it's that the key to a successful KM Audit is planning the hell out of things. Don't make assumptions, make a plan of action! Some of the highlights of my audit action plans include:
  • Prior to its launch, conduct a review of the survey (for content and language) by KM team members and key organizational stakeholders, particularly those involved in Operations, Communications, Marketing, and IT (if that department manages any KM tools/applications)
  • Following it's review, the survey should be set-up using the pre-determined administration vehicle (e.g., SurveyMonkey) and user tested for clarity, language, level of difficulty, and length of time to completion and modified accordingly.
  • Organize a full-fledged marketing campaign for the KM Audit. Depending on your budget, the audit can be supported using the following marketing channels: common area posters, table toppers, and digital displays; email alerts; intranet announcements; department leads; senior management; and knowledge management system (KMS) “power users”. It's also a good idea to set an official launch date for your KM Audit with an email from senior leadership describing the purpose and importance of the auditing process. Subsequent email reminders can be distributed by the KM team.
  • Detail the process for how data will be compiled, analyzed and reported (including to and by whom)
And I think that does it for this least, I hope I've covered all of my bases here. Between the overwhelming smell of Caribou's coffee and my Dan Fogelberg playlist I'm now sleepy, nauseous, and hungry which means it's time to hop in the car, crank up Spose and take a little ride over to KFC before my tennis match this afternoon.


April 20, 2010

Bloggerview: Nirmala Palaniappan

Bloggerview: Nirmala Palaniappan